The sunny mid-seventy degree weather in Iowa City certainly cooperated with Maryland's women's soccer on the Terrapins' first and longest Big Ten road trip. The officiating crew was a different story. The Big Ten Network never clarified whether the crew got lost on their way to the Iowa Soccer Complex or whether they were (insert sarcasm font) caught in traffic. Perhaps they looked at the BTN schedule which generally uses eastern time and assumed the 3:30 scheduled start was local time. Whatever the cause, the game didn't start until nearly 3:30 central time when three straggling replacement officials arrived. Maryland took the fight to Iowa early and the Terps came away with an important 1-0 road win over the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Iowa opened with possession but the Terps quickly forced a goal kick and possessed the ball for nearly three minutes mostly in their defensive half. A turnover in the midfield led to a golden chance for the Hawkeyes. Their leading scorer, Cloe Lacasse took a slip pass and got herself in a one on one situation with Maryland goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands. Beanlands came far off her line and Lacasse pushed her shut just wide of the left post.
After another Iowa probe, the Terps had a a chance to end their nearly three game scoring drought. Shade Pratt got the ball into the box to Alex Doody. The pass was barely deflected by an Iowa defender forcing Doody to take an extra beat to corral the ball. She worked closer to the goal and drove a shot toward the far post but Hawkeyes' goalkeeper Hannah Clark, who came into the game with four consecutive shutouts and a 363 minute scoreless streak, made a diving save.
Eight minutes later two scoreless strings would come to an end. Riley Barger took control of the ball along the right side. Barger chipped a pass into the box where Pratt took control. Pratt took two touches and beat one of Iowa's best defenders, Melanie Pickert to open some space. Pratt launched a shot that found the upper left ninety. Maryland led 1-0, and Clark's scoreless string ended at 379 minutes. More importantly for Maryland fans, the Terps had scored for the first time in 261 minutes.
Just three minutes later, Lacasse had another run that got her into a similar position to the chance she'd had in the third minute. One again Beanlands came off her line and once again Iowa's star forward drove her shot wide left.
It was at this point that Maryland coach Jonathan Morgan made a key strategic change. He moved Pratt off the ball and into a position with which she became familiar in 2013 - center back. He also brought Cory Ryan in to the front line to bolster Maryland's ball control and attack.
Meanwhile, Pratt took on a new assignment marking Lacasse. To counter Morgan's move, first year Hawkeyes' coach Dave DiIanni, shifted out of his 4-2-3-1 formation which put Lacasse as the only player up top, and pulled his star scorer more into the midfield. He also moved Pickert from center back to attacking midfield. For the remainder of the half, Morgan's decision proved more effective as the Terps carried the 1-0 lead into the break.
Iowa ended the first half putting much more pressure on the Terrapins' defense while controlling the ball in the offensive half for most of the final five minutes. They continued to push up trying to counter Maryland's possession style of play. The Hawkeyes had the better of the play for the first three or four minutes but then the Terps began to control the ball. They maintained control for the better part of ten minutes but Iowa began to counter in the 56th minute.
Lacasse got the ball in a dangerous position deep on the right side just outside the box. Pratt, however did her job making a strong tackle and won the first round. Lacasse nearly won the second round. Iowa attacked down the left side and Lacasse caught Pratt watching the ball and drifted off the defender's shoulder into open space about eight yards in front of the goal. Lacasse turned on the ball but Shannon Collins was in the right spot to body the ball over the back line. The Hawkeyes didn't convert on the ensuing corner kick.
Some lax attention to Iowa's defensive positioning by Maryland's forwards allowed the home team to maintain pressure and own the lion's share of possession over the game's next fifteen or twenty minutes. The Terps were whistled offside on four different occasions. The composure of Maryland's defense protected the lead despite the Hawkeyes continuing to push forward and generate a number of set plays off Maryland fouls.
Iowa had their most dangerous chances in the 84th and 85th minutes when they picked up back to back corner kicks. The first was by far the more dangerous of the two with Pickert getting above the Terps defense for a header off the serve. Beanlands stopped but was unable to control the ball. Two or three seemingly interminable seconds later for Terps' fans, the defense cleared the ball out of the box.
Over much of the game's final four minutes Maryland regained much of the possession and held it in the offensive half. The Terps held on for the 1-0 win handing the Hawkeyes their first loss in conference play.
Next stop for Maryland: Lincoln, Nebraska to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers who are off to a slow start defending their 2013 Big Ten championship. They have started conference play 0-2-1 and when Maryland's game ended were tied with Rutgers 1-1 in the 39th minute of that Thursday contest.
In picking up their second conference win, the Terps move to 2-1-1 in the league. Credit Rachelle Beanlands with two saves and her fourth shutout of the season including three in B1G play. Credit this win on the bench to Coach Morgan for strategically shifting Shade Pratt to defense and on the field to Pratt who was both the offensive and defensive star of the game.